Friday, November 15, 2019

A suite at the Movies

This montage from our Podcast Vault revisits a post from September 2, 2011. It can be found in our archives at


A little play on words, as we enjoy a “suite” at the movies – and orchestral suites by composers based on music they wrote for films. Music and film goes back to the days of silent films, where music played a large role in providing desired mood effects, and later in the Musicals of the 1940’s, only to name those. Composers as far back as Camille Saint-Saëns provided film music, and a great number of European composers (most noteworthy here being Franz Waxman and Erich Korngold) moved to Hollywood to score great epic films of the first half of the 20th century.

Our selections include music by Serge Prokofiev and Sir William Walton, best known for their more “serious” works, as well as George Gershwin (who briefly worked on Hollywood films before his early death in 1937) and Nino Rota and John Williams, who arebest known for their movie work and have been known to dabble in “serious compositions”.

Over the years, we've shared quite a bit of film music, especially from Mr. Williams. As a bonus this week, I thought I would share selections from one of my favourite Williams film scores. He collaborated on dozens of projects with director Steven Spielberg, but this gem isn't a Waxmanesque symphonic score, but rather a throwback to Williams' years as a jazz pianist. It is from the 2002 film Catch Me If You Can, which starred Tom Hanks who plays a seasoned FBI agent pursuing Frank Abagnale Jr. ( Leonardo DiCaprio) who, before his 19th birthday, successfully forged millions of dollars' worth of checks while posing as a Pan Am pilot, a doctor, and a legal prosecutor.

The performance is by a Polish  music academy.

I think you will (still) love this music too.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Wilhelm Backhaus & Beethoven

No. 326 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages is this week's Friday Blog and Podcast. Mobile followers can listen to the montage on our Pod-O-Matic Channel, and desktop users can simply use the embedded player found on this page.

Wilhelm Backhaus  (1884 –1969), one of the pre-eminent Beethoven interpreters of his generation, is heard in today’s montage in a set of Ludwig’s sonatas and the Second concerto. Among Backhaus’ contemporaries, we count last week’s featured artist, Wilhelm Kempff, as well as other pianists we have explored in past posts – Walter Gieseking and Edwin Fischer. All of these musicians were at the height of their careers during or after World War II, yet they have seen their reputations tarnished through their association (tenuous or not) with the Nazis.

German musicians reacted to Nazism in many different ways. The pianist Elly Ney, for instance, was a rabid anti-Semite who idolized Hitler. Backhaus met Adolf Hitler by May 1933. That same year, he became executive advisor to the Nazi organization Kameradschaft der deutschen Künstler (Fellowship of German Artists). For the German elections 1936, Backhaus published a statement in the magazine Die Musikwoche which stated "Nobody loves German art, and especially German music, as glowingly as Adolf Hitler…" A month later, Hitler gave Backhaus a professorship, and invited him that September to attend the annual Nazi party's Nuremberg Rally. We note that Backhaus elected to live in Switzerland in the 1930 and never resided in Germany per se, not even during the Nazi period.

Born in Leipzig, Backhaus began learning piano at the age of four with his mother and enrolled at the Leipzig Conservatory – at the urging of Arthur Nikisch, no less - where he studied from 1891 and 1899. He later perfected his training privately with Eugen d'Albert in Frankfurt. At the turn of the century, Backahuis launched into a career that would span nearly 70 years – he died in 1969 a few days before he was scheduled to perform in Austria. Even at 85 he still had the technical infallibility, which was praised by the jury of the "Anton Rubinstein Prize" when he won this once most coveted of all piano prizes (in a group that included Béla Bartók) in 1905. Back then, when the Liszt students and unrestrainedly romanticizing Beethoven interpreters Rubinstein and d'Albert set the tone, Backhaus was already a disciplined outsider, endeavoring to achieve a truly objective performance, without pomp and false solemnity.

One of the first pianists to make recordings, Backhaus had a long career not only on the concert stage but also in the studio. He recorded the complete piano sonatas and concertos of Beethoven and a large quantity of Mozart and Brahms. His recordings of the complete Beethoven sonatas, made in the 1950s and '60s, display exceptional technique for a man in his seventies. His live Beethoven recordings are in some ways even better, freer and more vivid (some of these are part of today’s montage, along with vintage recoirdings of Sonatas 22 and 28).

To complete the montage, I am featuring Backhaus’ 1952 recording of Beethoven’s Second Concerto with the Vienna Philharmonic with Clemens Krauss. Backahus would record a few years later a “stereo” version of the same concerto as part of a complete cycle with the same orchestra under Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt. Most aficionados prefer the latter performance (and set) as they feel the orchestra is more “committed” under the younger conductor and maybe the soloist is therefore more inspired. When I listen to this mono performance, I can still appreciate Backhaus’ approach and esthetic.

I think you will love this music too

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

In Memoriam Jörg Demus (1928-2019)

This is my post from this week's Tuesday Blog.

This week’s Once Upon the Internet playlist, like our last post on Paul Badura-Skoda, features assorted downloads (mainly from the old MP3.COM) of works featuring Jörg Demus, a fellow Austrian pianist oif the same generation who also passed away earlier this year. He has released over 350 LPs and over 200 CDs, focusing on German items such as Bach, Mozart and Schumann, and has received international acclaim.

He entered the Vienna Academy of Music at the age of 11, and received instruction from Walter Kelschbaumer, Hans Swarowsky, Josef Krips and Joseph Marx. After graduating in 1945, he studied with Yves Nat in Paris, Walter Gieseking at the Salzburg Conservatory, and master classes with Wilhelm Kempff, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, Edwin Fischer, and other legendary masters. He won the Busoni International Competition in 1956, and has been active worldwide.

The opening paragraph of his Telegraph obituary is both telling and a bit snippy if you ask me: “Jörg Demus, who has died aged 90, was an old-school Austrian pianist best known for his sensitive accompaniment of singers such as Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Elly Ameling and, above all, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau; he made his name with the music of Vienna – Haydn, Mozart, Schubert and Beethoven – and, according to one reviewer, often performed as if the 20th century had never happened.”

Like Badura-Skoda, Demus was featured on a good number of our past playlists and montages – in fact, some of this week’s tracks are re-used from at least two of our Friday montages – most notably nboth books of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier from 2013.


(All works featuring Jörg Demus, piano)

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Twelve Variations on“Ah, vous dirais-je, Maman” in C Major, K. 265
(Played on the Fortepiano)

Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Nocturne in E Major, op. 62, no. 2

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue in D minor, BWV 903

Robert SCHUMANN (1810 –1856)

Blumenstück in D-flat Major, Op. 19

Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732 –1809)
Keyboard Concerto in G major, Hob.XVIII:4
(conducting the Tokyo Chamber Players)

Franz SCHUBERT (1797 —1828)
Ganymed, D. 544
(with Elly Ameling, soprano)

Wanderer-fantasie, D. 760

Internet Archive URL -

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Project 366 - Dates on the Musical Calendar for November 2019

Project 366 continues in 2019 with "Dates on the Musical Calendar". Read more here.

A little late, but here you go...


  • November 1st – All Saints Day (Guide # 293
  • November 3rd – "Falling back" to Standard Time in North America (Guide # 86
  • November 11 – JRemebrance Day (AKA Veteran's Day or Armistice Day) (Guide # 311)
  • November 28 – Thanksgiving day (USA) (Guidee # 314)
Continuing our review of past listener guides from Part 1, including sung and stage works (that includes Don Giovanni, Guidess 312 & 313), and some selected themes, like "The Concert Experience" and " The Trufecta". Also, we feature the cmplete set of Tchaikovsky's orchestra suites.

Your Listener Guides
Listener Guide #311 – Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day (also known as Poppy Day or Armistice Day) is a memorial day observed in Europe and the Commonwealth countries to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty since World War I. Remembrance Day is observed on 11 November to recall the official end of World War I on that date in 1918; hostilities formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice.  (ITYWLTMT Podcast #30 - 11 November 2011)

Listener Guides  #312 & 313 – Don Giovanni (Mozart)

Don Giovanni, the infamous womanizer, makes one conquest after another until the ghost of Donna Anna's father, the Commendatore, (whom Giovanni killed) makes his appearance. He offers Giovanni one last chance to repent for his multitudinious improprieties. He will not change his ways So, he is sucked down into hell by evil spirits. High drama, hysterical comedy, magnificent music! (Once or Twice a Fortnight - February 26th, 2015) (L/G 312 Act 1, L/G 313 Act 2)

Listener Guide #314 - Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday celebrated on various dates in Canada, the United States, some of the Caribbean islands, and Liberia. Similarly named festival holidays occur in Germany and Japan. Although Thanksgiving has historical roots in religious and cultural traditions, it has long been celebrated as a secular holiday. (ITYWLTMT Montage # 296 - 23 November 2018)